How to Get HIV Prevention Medication for Free

According to the CDC, around 38,000 Americans contract HIV each year. But fortunately, there are now drugs available that can help prevent becoming infected with HIV, including Truvada and Descovy, known as PrEP drugs. Unfortunately, these drugs have been so expensive that they have been out of reach for many people: they can cost as much as $1,800 a month! But all of that is set to change: new rules are mandating that most insurers cover the cost of these drugs, as well as associated clinic visits and lab work.   

The Mandate

After looking at the research surrounding HIV prevention drugs, which shows that each drug is 99% effective at preventing HIV infection, the Biden Administration has decided to mandate coverage for these medications. Most insurers must now completely cover the cost of the drugs and, as of Sept. 19, 2021, must also cover the cost of the services associated with them, including regular HIV tests and doctor’s office fees, according to new rules from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

gavel on a table

Hundreds of thousands of people could benefit from the new mandate, especially African Americans and other people of color, who are much more likely than whites to be diagnosed with HIV, but much less likely to talk with a healthcare provider about the drugs. 

“Now it is important that people who are eligible for PrEP, along with their providers, are aware of these new requirements,” Carl Schmid, executive director of the HIV+Hepatitis Policy Institute, said of the new guidance to insurers regarding PrEP-related cost-sharing. “We also have to hold insurers accountable to ensure they are doing their job in complying with their legal obligations. Plan reviews still show many insurers are not in compliance, and we need state insurance regulators to enforce the law and the new guidance.”

Descovy and Truvada, often referred to as PrEP, for “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” are approved for men at high risk of acquiring HIV through unprotected sex or injection drug use. Truvada is also approved for women.

What If You Don’t Have Insurance?

Even if you don’t have insurance, or your current plan will not cover the drugs, there is still hope! The generic form of Truvada, which is just as effective, can cost as little as $30 a month! 

In addition, you should look into Ready, Set, PrEP, a federal program that offers Descovy and Truvada free to anyone without insurance, regardless of their income level, as long as they have a Social Security number and a prescription. You can apply by calling 855-447-8410. 

Once approved, you can fill the prescription at any participating pharmacies, including Albertsons, CVS, Rite Aid, Vons, Walgreens, and Walmart.

Carolyn Chu, MD, chief medical officer at the American Academy of HIV Medicine, says “A significant component of ending the HIV epidemic is ensuring that, in addition to medication coverage, communities most at risk for HIV and those with the greatest need have access to care that is free from stigma, and delivered by providers who understand the experiences of the community.”

Looking For An Affordable Plan?illustration of health insurance

If you don’t have health insurance, or your plan does not cover these drugs, you can find an affordable plan that does with EZ’s help. We offer a wide range of health insurance plans from top-rated insurance companies in every state. And because we work with so many companies and can offer all of the plans available in your area, we can find you a plan that saves you a lot of money – even hundreds of dollars – even if you don’t qualify for a subsidy. There is no obligation, or hassle, just free quotes on all available plans in your area. To get free instant quotes, simply enter your zip code in the bar above, or to speak to a local agent, call 888-350-1890.

PrEP Must Now Be Completely Covered By Health Insurance Companies

Although we might have been focused on other illnesses for the past few years, HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS, has by no means been eradicated in the United States. 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV; around 14% of them are unaware they are infected, and only a little over half of those who are aware of their condition are virally suppressed. Fortunately, there are now effective treatments for the virus (but still no cure), as well as a drug that can help prevent getting infected, known as PrEP. And now, in an attempt to prevent the spread of HIV, the federal government has announced that all health insurance companies in the U.S. must completely cover the cost of this drug. But will it be offered to everyone, and when can people expect to get the PrEP pill at no cost?

All About HIV

illustration of the human body and HIV symptoms that affects each part of it
Be aware of the signs and symptoms of HIV, because if it is not treated, it can progress to AIDS.

HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, was once considered a death sentence, and a diagnosis of it can still sound extremely scary today. And while it is a serious virus that attacks the body’s immune system, and which, if not treated, can lead to the more deadly AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), there are now treatments that can slow or prevent the progression of the virus. The problem is that there is currently no cure for HIV (or AIDS), which is why it is important for those who are at a higher risk of contracting HIV to protect themselves with PrEP. 

Fortunately, a lot of myths have been debunked about HIV, but there are some things about the virus that might still be surprising to many people, including the following statistics: 

  • In 2018, there were almost 40,000 new HIV diagnoses.
  • Gay and bisexual African American men account for the largest number of HIV diagnoses.
  • Approximately 23% of people living with HIV in the U.S. are women, and about one in nine of them are unaware that they have the virus.
  • Among all women diagnosed with HIV in 2018, 57% were African American, 21% were white, and 18% were Hispanic/Latina.
  • Young adults aged 13 to 24 accounted for more than 1 in 5 new HIV diagnoses in 2018.

When To Consider PrEP

PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a daily medication that can reduce a person’s chances of getting HIV if taken daily; doing so will reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%, and more than 70% for people who inject drugs. A person can benefit from the drug if they:

  • have a sexual partner with HIV
  • have not been consistently using a condom
  • have been diagnosed with an STD in the past 6 monthsa medical needle with the top off
  • inject drugs and share needles with an injection partner who is infected with HIV

Who Can Get PrEP For Free & When?

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the drug will be free for people who are insured. They will not have a:

  • Drug copay
  • Lab test copay
  • Coinsurance fee
  • Doctor visit copay
  • Deductible payment

Health insurance companies will have 60 days from July 19th to comply with the new mandate. 

While the new rule currently only applies to those with health insurance, there is some debate on giving access to the medication to everyone, not just the insured. Kenyon Farrow, managing director of advocacy and organizing at the activist group PrEP4All, called upon the federal government “to look for ways to cover people who are uninsured, particularly in non-Medicaid-expansion states, to be able to access PrEP services.” 

“If we’re serious about ending the HIV epidemic,” Farrow said, “we have to ensure equal access to PrEP in all communities and not only for the insured.”

Don’t Mistake HIV for AIDS

Many people think that HIV and AIDS are the same things, using the two words interchangeably. While they are connected, they are two distinct illnesses. 

HIV AIDS written in black surrounded by red dripping colors as a wallpaper.
Many people confuse HIV and AIDS, thinking they are the same. HIV leads to AIDS, but AIDS cannot happen without getting HIV first.

HIV is a virus that can be transferred from person to person, and it damages the immune system. AIDS is the result of HIV damaging the immune system. The health risks of developing AIDS from HIV are so severe that they can cause pneumonia, tuberculosis, and even cancer. 

Our bodies can usually fight off viruses, but this is not the case with HIV.  Because of this, in the past, if you contracted HIV, it was considered a death sentence. However, thanks to constant research and the development of medications, a person with HIV can live a long and healthy life. The medications controlling HIV prevent it from multiplying and reaching higher stages–one of those being AIDS.

What Causes HIV & AIDS?

HIV attacks a type of white blood cell called a “CD4” in the body’s immune system. Attacking these cells inhibits the body’s ability to fight infections. Once contracted, a person will live with HIV for life. There are different ways HIV can be contracted. It is spread by:

Needle point with blood on the tip laying on top of a white counter.
One way that HIV is contracted is by sharing contaminated needles.
  • Bodily fluids exchanged during unprotected sex. 
  • Sharing needles with someone that has the virus. 
  • Receiving a blood transfusion or transplant from blood with HIV(very uncommon these days due to blood screenings before use).
  • Breast milk to an infant from an HIV-positive mother, or to the fetus in the womb.

After contracting  HIV, the virus can progress into what is known as Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It develops when infection reaches HIV stage 3. This happens when a person does not get treatment, or is unaware that they have been infected, and the virus multiplies, damaging the immune system to the point that AIDS develops.

The Lack Of Symptoms

When a person is infected with HIV, symptoms are not always present. Usually, after about 2-4 weeks of infection (called acute infection, stage 1) a person might display flu-like symptoms. The symptoms include fever, weakness, a rash, and enlarged lymph nodes. 

However, not everyone will experience these exact symptoms–if any at all. It is the main reason why STD screenings are so important for sexually active individuals. HIV is largely spread during, because during the acute stage the person has no symptoms, and their viral load is large.

Stages 2 & 3

Stage 2 HIV can last up to 10 years or more. You enter Stage 3 HIV when your immune system is so damaged that it can no longer fight off serious illnesses or infections. This is when the virus is now considered AIDS. The earlier a person is diagnosed with HIV, the better their chances of long-term health. 

Cemetery with white tombstones
HIV and AIDS used to mean a death sentence. HIV can now be controlled before it reaches AIDS and the deadly stages.

If left untreated, AIDS can develop anywhere from 2-15 years after contracting the virus. However, this is only a guideline. Each person’s body is different, so the time span for your specific development can be incredibly different in comparison to the person next to you. Here are some determining factors of what slows down the development of AIDS:

  • Overall health
  • Genetics
  • Other infections
  • Strength of the immune system



Diagnosis of HIV can be done with a simple blood test or saliva swab test. It is important to know that it can take several weeks after contracting HIV to get a positive test result. This is because they look for antibodies instead of the actual virus because it’s easier to find our body’s natural response to the virus.

In order to diagnose AIDS, or stage 3 HIV, a doctor has to count the CD4 cells left in a person’s body. A person without HIV will have anywhere from 500-1,200 of the cells. When it drops to 200 cells or less, then a person receives an AIDS diagnosis. 


An orange pill bottle laying on a white table, open with white pill falling out of it.
Treatment for HIV is possible, it will not get rid of the infestion. However, it will stop the virus from spreading into later stages.

As stated, if a person catches HIV in its early stages, and receives the proper medication in time, their life expectancy will remain normal. But once a person develops AIDS, their life expectancy drops significantly. There is no reversing the damage done to the immune system. 

PrEP can offer protection to people who are at risk of contracting HIV. Under the brand name Truvuda, the pill contains two medications, tenofovir and emtricitabine, that can stop the virus, even if exposure occurs. The pill can reduce the chance of infection by 92%. 

A person can have HIV without AIDS, but they cannot have AIDS without having HIV first. That is the difference between the two infections. AIDS can be totally prevented if someone listens to their body and gets checked out if they suspect HIV. This is doubly important if that someone also shares needles or has unprotected sex. It is critical to get checked because it can save you from developing a life-threatening illness. Know your status!

Trump claims to defeat HIV/AIDS by 2030, Is It Possible?

Over the past couple of months, President Trump has made a few promises to the public regarding healthcare. Just this past December, he promised to protect pre-existing conditions, and now during his State of the Union Address, he pledges to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. His plan is to reduce new HIV infection by 75% in the next five years, and almost by 90% in ten years. Is it possible? And just how does he plan to do it?

HIV Numbers At A Standstill

In order to defeat HIV, there must be a way to get treatment and prevention methods to those who need it.
In order to defeat HIV, there must be a way to get treatment and prevention methods to those who need it.

According to data collected by the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2010 and 2016, the overall number of HIV infections was dropping. The report indicated that HIV was higher among people aged between 25 -34, but lower among people aged 13-24 and 45-54. The number of women getting infected decreased but remained stable among men. In 2016, over half of those infected with HIV were males.

Although the numbers were declining for several years, it seems that the decline in annual HIV infections has stopped. After five years, it began to level off in 2013 at about 39,000 infections per year. The reason for the stall in numbers is simple, funding. People who could benefit most from HIV prevention and treatment are not able to retrieve it.

Trump’s Plan

Trump’s proposed budget for 2020 includes almost $300 million towards his campaign to end HIV.  “In recent years, we have made remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Scientific breakthroughs have brought a once-distant dream within reach,” Trump said in the address.”My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years. Together, we will defeat AIDS in America.”

Funding is very important in order to get rid of the HIV epidemic.
Funding is very important in order to get rid of the HIV epidemic within the next 10 years, as promised by Trump.

In 2001, President Bush made the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. In 2003, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was created. Because of these two programs, there have been half as many deaths. Trump plans to fund programs in geographic places where HIV infections are high. With the data collected, they will expand HIV prevention and treatment. With the upcoming programs alongside the Global Fund, and PEPFAR, many are hoping to see a significant decrease in HIV infections.

Heather Bradley, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Georgia State University’s School of Public Health, conducted research on HIV observation. She estimates that although Trump claims a 90% decrease by 2030, it will more realistically be a 67% reduction.  She did say that 90% can be achieved, but it will take a lot of government resources to make it happen.

PrEP, Protector From HIV? Or a Clever Villain

Usage of the Drug Protects You, But What About the Long Game?

I remember visiting some friends in San Francisco, and they were surprised that I wasn’t taking PrEP like they were. Sexual health is a big issue and none bigger in the community than the topic of AIDS and HIV. They aren’t the death sentence they used to be, but it still involves a major life change.

I know my friends were looking out for me. So, I did some research, found a program, and started my prescription with the drug. I’m three months in and about to start my next prescription. However, I’ve looked into the long term side effects, and they aren’t anything to sneeze about.

But as a “healthy individual,” does this extra protection against HIV infection outweigh the possible health problems in my future? Am I bargaining safer sex for a different physical issue?

sexual health fear stress
It’s hard making these decisions for your sexual health, but you must.

So, What is PrEP?

PrEP is Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. Basically, a treatment before coming into contact with the virus. It reduces your risk of contracting HIV from sexual encounters or any encounter where you may be exposed to an infected fluid. This is the only sexually transmitted infection it works to prevent.

Studies have shown that this prevention method works across the board. Gay and bisexual men, heterosexual men and women, and injection drug users can all benefit from its protection. If you have a risk of getting HIV, then this is for you.

The particular drug used is called Truvada or FTC/TDF.  It’s FDA approved, and it has been in use for about seven years now.

If you take it as prescribed (one pill a day), then your risk of becoming infected with HIV is reduced by 99%.

Sounds great, right?

Are There Long Term Changes?

So, down to the nitty-gritty. My research brought up that in the future, PrEP users can expect a change in their kidney function and/or bone mineral density. PrEP long term use can lead down some slippery roads.

HIV test know your status
Getting tested and knowing your HIV status is paramount to our community.

Currently, there is no fact sheet telling us what will happen to “healthy” individuals taking PrEP over the course of years. We do know that HIV infected individuals have the aforementioned health concerns, but at this time, we just don’t have enough research, because the drug is too new.

My personal interactions, in this case, have been hopeful. The medical professionals that prescribe me Truvada are also monitoring my kidneys for changes every three months. I assume they are taking adequate precautions with my bone density as well.

How Can You Get PrEP?

So, like me, you’re on board with this idea. You acquire an HIV preventative medication for peace of mind.

Your first step is to talk to your doctor and, of course, check with your insurance provider to see if they cover this. Financially, speaking, the drug can get expensive with costs of up to $2000. If your doctor approves you for this, you’ll start the process by taking an HIV test along with others to get your health baseline. It’s important to know your HIV status in general, but more so when starting PrEP.

personal health PrEP prescription
You have to take control of your own health! No one can do it for you.

After this, your medical professional should get you going in the right direction. We trust them for these reasons.

Another option is participating in a program. The Gilead program has been an absolute godsend for me. Medicaid can help, but it differs across state lines. If you’re lucky enough to live in San Francisco like my friends, Healthy San Francisco offers assistance.

After your tests are cleared, you’ll pick up your medication or have it shipped to you. Starting the drug, you are cautioned to expect mild nausea.

Let’s face it. When you’re caught up in the moment, sometimes it’s hard to think clearly enough to protect yourself. Using PrEP significantly reduces your risk of getting HIV, and the life-altering changes that come with it. Your personal health care has to be a high priority on all fronts: past, present, and future. At this point, the pros of using PrEP outweigh the unknown cons.

EZ.Insure is there for you should you want to change your health plan by upgrading or need to look into getting one on your own. If this drug sounds good to you, talk to your agent about its coverage in your current healthcare plan. They’re there for you to make sure you (and your wallet) stay healthy.